Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Teeny Tiny Pieces & Confessions

I have been saving scraps if they are large enough to cut a 1" square. I didn't really like to tell too many people about this because, well, you know. Some people just don't understand. - the ones that toss really BIG hunks into the waste basket at retreats. Recently I even saw a big chunk in the waste basket of a vendor at our state quilt show. I regret not being bold enough to ask if I could dig it out!

However, I am no longer embarrassed or ashamed.

Here's a quilt on display at the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum, visited recently, that makes 1" pieces look big.


Here is the full view so you can get the perspective. Not terribly graphic from afar, is it? But get closer to see the size of the pieces and the purposeful arrangement of chevrons which are ultimately joined into four large sections. It's truly a wonder - a testament to patience and extreme thrift!

Checking The Quilt Index, where quilts from this museum collection are documented, I found out more about this quilt. Made by Bessie Sanford of Michigan, born in 1873, it is hand pieced and hand quilted from the back in fans. Someone more patient than I figured out that there are about 37,000 pieces. It measures 80" square. I understand and applaud Bessie. There is something so satisfying about 'using up' every tidbit.

In the late 1800's it became quite the popular thing for some quilters who were competitive in nature to try to earn bragging rights about the number of pieces in their quilt. Agricultural fairs promoted this popular type of competition and articles appeared in newspapers stating the number of pieces in someone's quilt so, inevitably, someone else said, 'I can top that!" and the challenge was on.

The result is that there are many such quilts but the first quilt that I admit brought tears to my eyes was Grace Snyder's Flower Basket Petit Point. I had never seen such a thing. It was on display in 2002 at the Houston International  Quilt Show, chosen as one of the one hundred Best Quilts of the 20th century.

It is composed of half square triangle units measuring one fourth of an inch!. You heard me right. Eight tiny triangles sewn together make a ‘block’ about the size of a postage stamp!

This in not the full quilt but you can see it at the IQSCG website. Double click this image for a close-up.

Grace was inspired by a needlepoint pattern on on a set of china. I was able to see the actual china for the first time at a recent lecture by Jeananne Wright in Colorado.

 The story of her life, as told to her daughter, is called   No Time on My Hands, the understatement of all time! I highly recommend it.

The Flower Basket quilt is now in the collection of IQSCM at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, as is this hexagon quilt, also by Grace.  She just couldn't quit!

Click here for just one of many links with more examples and information about quilts with many small pieces.

So now you know. 
I save tiny pieces of fabric 
and beautiful quilts can bring me to tears!

Friday, July 18, 2014

A Trip to Denver - Quilts Galore!

I just returned from a visit to the Denver area where I was fortunate to enjoy a great many opportunities to see and study vintage quilts and attend several special events.
The First Glance;Second Look exhibition at the Denver Art Museum was one of them. I attended with several quilt loving friends and we were all completely enthralled with the display of quilts from the museum's collection. The exhibit was aptly named because each and every quilt nearly forced you to take a second look...and a third and fourth! At first glance you are excited. Up close you notice more things to exclaim over.
You may have seen some of these quilts on calendars or in other publications.
Here's a graphic four block Prince's Feather made in Alabama.

 I'll zoom in for a closer look at the quilting.

We all commented on the fan quilted border;
not often seen as just a border quilting design

Pine Tree Medallion c. 1900
Made in Alabama
 The central pine tree, faded from the original color,
 is surrounded by dramatic borders! 
Mathematical precision is required to make the corners meet so perfectly

This Matterhorn quilt is composed of over 9,000 3/4" squares
.Hand quilted.
95" x 105"

Having attended a lecture the night before called Sew Many Pieces by Jeananne Wright, this one was of particular interest. Jeananne shared quilts from her collection that were made of over 3,000 pieces.
Apparently no one has taken on the job of counting these pieces as the information was not provided!

The Houses and Pine Trees quilt was even reproduced on the elevator door and is the cover of a very nice  companion book available by mail order or in the museum gift shop. 

By the way, you can see more photos of this exhibit at the blog Collector with a Needle
  Part 1  and  Part 2

The adjoining thread studio was an interesting and unique concept with a variety of displays from techniques to tools along with 'hands on' experiences.

All of these bobbins are required to make this intricate lace. I have seen women doing this and find it hard to believe they can manage to keep them all straight.

Here's a display of the steps involved in making a Cathedral Window. So many people wonder how it is done. Technically not a quilt, these are heavy textiles and you can see why! There are a great many layers of folded fabric.

While you are there, the 3rd floor has a wonderful exhibit of American Indian art.
 I especially loved the eye dazzler Navaho rug display.

If you get to this museum be sure to go when it opens and allow enough time to take it all in. Then you will be hungry enough to enjoy the excellent lunch at the museum restaurant.

 I can vouch for the Cobb Salad!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Labeling Your Quilts: Part 2 of 2 (or It's Not Done Until It Has a Label)

I pieced a 'mini' of the flower for this label
Now it's time to make sure YOUR creations are
not anonymous.The days of thinking of these textiles as just 'women's work' or 'just a quilt' are over. My work, and yours, is worthy of identification. If you aren't sure, just trust me on this! Your label will add to the knowledge about quilts and their history down the road and you can rightfully take pride in what you have made.

The EZ method shown in the previous post can certainly be used on any quilt, vintage or new, and that may be adequate but now you will be able to include more information since YOU are the maker. In the case of a quilt you have made as a gift you may want to personalize it even more. The possibilities are endless. You can make a label that relates to the quilt itself, do a simple frame in coordinating fabric, write directly on the backing and more.

A simple frame 
These examples span the years of my quiltmaking. At one time I did print labels on muslin on my computer but they are not permanent unless treated or traced over. I chose a simple font and used a pigma fine point marker to go over the letters (tedious) and then press to set in these examples.

Personalized and 'signed'

Commercially printed labels come in yardage in all varieties. When I see something I like I buy it and try to remember that I have it (and where it is!)
I prefer to use my own handwriting these days. It's more personal. I so enjoy recipes my mother wrote in her own hand!
Commercial label from yardage

Embroidery adds a nice touch to the front of this quilt
and takes the place of a label on the back
For new quilts I sometimes write directly on the backing fabric. Do not do this on a vintage quilt.

Here's another idea. Piece a diagonal strip right onto the backing before you layer and quilt. You need to take care to see that it will fall in the corner the way you want it to but it makes a nice neat finish and is not removable!

I consider my choices for each new quilt and am always eager to learn of new ideas for labels. Do be sure that whatever style you choose, whether elaborate or simple, that you include at least the minimum basic information:
  • YOUR NAME (I include my maiden name lately)
  • WHERE YOU LIVE - city and state - many people forget to add this
  • DATE FINISHED - it may be a range of years from start to finish.
  • QUILTER'S NAME AND LOCATION -if not done by you

Now, can you match the label to the quilt?

Monday, May 26, 2014

Labeling Your Quilts: Vintage (1 of 2) - EZ Method

Having documented, studied and appraised vintage quilts for many years, I am very aware that most are anonymous. We don't know who made them or where they lived.  Though we can make an educated estimate about when a quilt was made due to clues in the quilt itself, it is still just a guess.
Knowing these things about a quilt contributes greatly to not only the study of quilts themselves, but to the history of textiles, women's history, dyes and much more.

That being said, while recently preparing for a new lecture I discovered that a few of my vintage quilts had not been labeled as I acquired them over the years.

In this two part series I'll share some of the ways I label the quilts in my collection; both vintage and the ones I've made. I use an EZ method for all vintage quilts. I know it's primitive but the important information is there and it requires minimum time or talent resulting in it more likely to be done!

EZ Method:

Press a piece of muslin or other fabric to freezer paper.

I use my wavy blade on the rotary cutter or a pinking shears to keep the edge from raveling.

 I will not be turning this under...that wouldn't be EZ!

I  cut various sizes in a variety of fabrics. Neutrals that allow the writing to be seen are good as are solids especially if the backing of the quilt is white. Look for stripes that might be interesting - giving you lines to write on.

I made a bunch while I was at it!

Use a fine point Pigma pen or Identipen to hand-write this information and press with a warm iron to set. I like the Identi-Pen. It has a different size tip on each end. The Pigma pens come in colors, though, and varying nib sizes.

The information on a vintage quilt label will be different from that on a quilt you've made. I want it to be clear that I own it; that I am not the maker.

 Here's what I include.
  • 'Name of quilt' - this can be a simple description such as Stars, Spools, Floral Applique or a published name
  • Estimate a circa date (an approximation covering a twenty year period)
  • Property of::    I use my name, city, state and phone number. I take my quilts out a lot and if I misplace one it will be easy to contact me.
  •  ID# -  I recently assigned at ID# to each vintage quilt in my database so I am adding that to the label. (V = Vintage with VC designating a vintage crib quilt) 

Then simply baste the label to one of the back corners. I like to use contrasting thread - I don't worry about knots showing. I know this is easily removed by someone with ulterior motives but I am not worried about that. I just want the label to adhere securely and be visible.

**Here's an update to my post as I was reminded by a reader of the case of a vintage quilt handed down through the family. I have only a few such quilts but on this one, a double wedding  ring top, here is what that label looks like. Customized but still simple. Informative labels may very well lead to increased respect and appreciation of the piece by  family members in years to come.

I keep a database of my collection on my computer including other pertinent facts about each quilt, such as where and when it was purchased, price paid, description, photo and more. For this reason the label ON the quilt is quite simple. It is designed to help someone get it back to me if it goes missing and will also help my family know what they have once I'm not here and to easily match it up with the database document.

The front of each example:

Next Week:  Labeling the Quilts You've Made